By Debbie Westover
Over the past year, many of us have spent more time at home than we had ever before. This has meant many picking up, or at least attempting, new hobbies, and many took their turn at baking bread. While we obviously would love you to buy our bread, Josh doesn’t shy away from answering people’s questions.
One popular question Josh gets is, “what essential baking tools should the home baker have?”
There are many fancy gadgets available; however, Josh wants everyone to know that none of those are essential. The fanciest his equipment gets is his stand mixer and food processor, but his absolute favorite method for mixing and kneading bread is by hand.
In no particular order, here is a list of Josh’s essential tools:
1. Banneton or Proofing Basket – Typically made from natural materials, these baskets are used to maintain the shape and structure of the dough as it proofs. Make sure the material is food-grade (unfortunately we’ve found many for sale online that are not). These are also how you get those nice spiral shapes on your loaf.
2. Bench Scrape – Josh feels that you can’t have enough of these (to his wife’s dismay), but that may be because he never puts them away in the same spot. However, he does recommend you have both metal and plastic scrapers. Metal is best for cutting and scraping dough on countertops, and plastic is useful when you need to scrape the inside of bowls.
3. Instant-Read Food Thermometer (Probe Thermometer) - As you begin your baking journey, you’ll want to check the temperature of your dough during the mixing and proofing stages. Also, a part of knowing when your bread is done baking is the dough reaching a particular temperature. Josh is fairly good at doing this by feel, but this is after years of experience.
4. Digital Scale – The most accurate way of measuring your ingredients is by weight. It is amazing how inaccurate measuring cups can be, so take the guessing out of the equation. Baking is a precise art.
5. Dutch Oven – This is one of the most essential items for the home baker. Professional ovens have steam capabilities. Using a dutch oven creates a steam atmosphere, and it allows you to get a quality crust.
6. Loaf Pan – Not all loaves should be baked in dutch ovens. A loaf pan is needed for sandwich loaves and those softer doughs.
7. Lame – Many doughs, especially sourdough, require being sliced prior to baking. Under the intense heat of the oven, the dough expands, and the slicing, or scoring, allows for a controlled expansion. The most basic lame is a simple razor blade; however, the safer option is to get one with a handle. As you get more experienced, you can start experimenting with those memorizing designs we’ve all seen online (wait is that just me…).
8. Chef Knife – While not all bakers may consider this essential, Josh feels that everyone needs a good, quality chef knife at home.
Other honorable mentions:
· Baking Sheet
· Cooling Racks
· Mixing Bowls
· Baking Parchment and Silicone Baking Mats
· Rolling Pin
· Ice Cream Scoop or Cookie Dough Scoop
· Balloon Whisk
· Small Off-Set Spatula
· Pastry Brush